BEIRUT — Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told Al-Joumhouriya that he will not set a new parliamentary election session date unless agreement on a candidate is reached between the country's political parties.
"Setting a Parliament session depends on consensus on a president, and accordingly, it is not possible for me to call for a parliamentary session to elect a president only for the failure of the 12 previous sessions to repeat itself," Berri said in remarks published by Al-Joumhouriya on Monday.
Lebanon has been without a president since Michel Aoun's term in office ended on Oct. 31, 2022. The Lebanese Parliament has held 12 failed parliamentary sessions to elect a new president. At the most recent session on June 14, IMF Director Jihad Azour garnered 59 votes against Hezbollah-backed Sleiman Frangieh's 51 votes. A candidate needs a two-thirds majority of votes in Lebanon's 128-member Parliament in order to be elected president in the first round; in subsequent rounds of voting, a candidate needs only garner a simple majority to be elected.
In the absence of a president, Christian parties have been boycotting any parliamentary session devoted to legislation. They point to the Lebanese Constitution, which mandates that Parliament act solely as an electoral college until a new head of state is elected. Some MPs also contend that Parliament should only legislate on necessary issues amid the presidential vacuum.
However, Berri said that "the constitution does not cancel or suspend the legislative role of the Parliament and the text is very clear in this regard that the Parliament becomes an electoral college exclusively during the election session and not outside it." Berri added, "There is no such thing as necessity legislation; there is only legislation."
Berri's statements came as Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai strongly criticized the caretaker cabinet and the Parliament on Sunday in relation to the delay in electing a new president.
"We ask those who violate this national pact: how do you balance these blatant violations against the Preamble to the constitution, which stipulates that no legitimacy is recognized for any power that contradicts the pact of living together. Doesn't this apply to the work of Parliament or the government?" Rai blasted.